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‘We have a chance for a new Christmas classic,’ ‘The Chosen’ creator Dallas Jenkins says about new project

Jenkins will be taking ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ to the big screen

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Dallas Jenkins gives an interview.

Dallas Jenkins, creator, producer, writer and director of “The Chosen,” talks to news media at the Salvation Army’s Camp Hoblitzelle in Midlothian, Texas, on Aug. 15, 2022.

Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

Fifteen years ago, Dallas Jenkins found his dream project.

It started when his wife Amanda Jenkins took a trip to Pottery Barn. She said in an Instagram video posted Friday that she then found a book called “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and decided to buy it. She and Dallas both had positive memories of reading it as children.

Amanda took the book home and the couple decided to read the book to their children together. While reading it, they started weeping.

“This is the movie that I was born to make,” Dallas remembers saying at the time. “If I could only make one more movie for the rest of my life, this is it.”

And now he’s making it. But the project didn’t come together without challenges.

The story of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson follows the Herdman children. The six siblings are misfits and troublemakers. After they show up at church one day, they decide to take over the Christmas pageant. The town is worried that the Herdman children will mess it up, but they don’t — they make it into something better than the town has ever seen.

The book follows “the least of these,” Jenkins said on Instagram. It’s about kids who aren’t totally accepted by their social circles.

“It’s similar to what ‘The Chosen’ is trying to do actually. It’s trying to take the story of Christmas and story of Jesus and taking down from stained glass windows and pretty paintings ... and revealing what it actually is. And through the eyes of these kids, they actually do that,” Jenkins said.

After Jenkins read the book with his family, he began a 15-year journey to make the movie. He was at first unsuccessful in his pursuit, he said in the video. That is, until recently.

On Friday, Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company announced in a press release sent to the Deseret News that “the companies have won the competition for Dallas Jenkins ... to adapt and direct ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.’”

“This is a dream come true and the movie I’ve most wanted to make my whole career. And I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone other than Lionsgate and Kingdom, who make great movies while supporting filmmakers,” Jenkins said.

Filming starts in Canada next month. The release date is currently set for the 2024 holiday season.

“The passion and vision Dallas has for this story is infectious — and to show him how we believe in the project as much as he does, we turned the Lionsgate restaurant into a holiday wonderland for him,” Erin Westerman, Lionsgate’s president of Production, said in the press release. “We believe he will deliver a holiday perennial that will be fun for the whole family next holiday season.”

The project will be part of an ongoing partnership between Kingdom and Lionsgate. The producers on the film are Kevin Downes, Daryl Lefever, Andrew Erwin and Jonn Erwin with Jenkins, Gerald R. Molen, Mark Kendell and Tony Young as executive producers.

“With the incredible response to ‘Jesus Revolution,’ we are thrilled to continue working with our partners at Lionsgate to bring trusted and inspiring content to screen,” Downes, who is Kingdom’s story chief of production and distribution, said in the press release. “With ‘Ordinary Angels’ and ‘Unsung Hero’ releasing at the top of the year, we’re delighted to partner with Dallas Jenkins on ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,’ rounding out the year with a holiday film we’re confident will become a new family favorite.”

As for Jenkins, he’s hoping he does it right.

“We have a chance for a new Christmas classic,” he said.